The Samsung Intrepid made its debut at CTIA Fall 2009 as Sprint's first Windows Mobile 6.5 smartphone. Admittedly, we weren't particularly impressed by the handset's drab and slightly plasticky design when we saw it at the show but now that we've had some time to get to know the device, we can appreciate it for being a solid messaging smartphone.
Replacing the Samsung Ace, the Intrepid offers a touch screen, a larger QWERTY keyboard, a better camera, and obviously, Windows Mobile 6.5. You also get world roaming capabilities as well as Microsoft's Tellme voice-activated service. It certainly bests the HTC Snap in features. Also, while the packaging isn't quite as sexy as the RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630, the Intrepid delivers as a phone and messaging device, making it a decent alternative to the Tour, especially if you want a touch screen. The Samsung Intrepid is available now for $149.99 with a two-year contract.
The design of the Samsung Intrepid is familiar. It's more utilitarian than flashy, and it doesn't stray far from the company's other QWERTY devices, such as the Samsung Ace or the Samsung Jack, and it sports a boxy shape yet relatively thin profile. At 4.6 inches tall by 2.59 inches wide by 0.51 inch thick, it is slightly wider than previous models to make it a tighter fit in a pants pocket but it feels comfortable to hold while typing messages.
The wider size also brings some benefits. First, the Intrepid features a slightly larger screen than the BlackBerry Tour and HTC Snap, measuring 2.5 inches diagonally. With a QVGA resolution (320x240 pixels), it's not quite as sharp as the Tour's display; the pixels are a bit more visible and the edges of text and images aren't quite as smooth. However, the Intrepid does have the advantage of including a touch screen, so you can just as easily tap the screen to launch an app, scroll through lists, and perform other tasks.
The touch screen also works well with the new interface enhancements of Windows Mobile 6.5. This includes the Zune-like Today screen, new Start menu, and Lock screen notification system. The touch screen is resistive so it requires a bit more pressure and precision than a capacitive screen, but we found the display to be responsive and there is an included stylus. In addition, there are navigation controls below the display, including two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Start menu shortcut, an OK button, and a D-pad, for easy one-handed operation. That said, we missed having a back button for easily returning to the previous screen.
The Intrepid's full QWERTY keyboard is quite good. The keys are a decent size for thumbs big and small and have non-slippery texture. They do feel slightly plasticky and cheap, but the typing experience was mostly positive. The spacious layout helped minimize mispresses, and the buttons provided a nice tactile feedback without being too clicky or too stiff. The keyboard also includes several shortcuts to apps on the bottom row and the number buttons are highlighted in red.
Rounding out the design is a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack on top of the device, a volume rocker, and a Micro-USB/power connector on the left side, and a power button, a camera activation/capture key, and stylus on the right. The camera, along with flash and self-portrait mirror, is located on the back, while the microSD and SIM card slot are behind the battery door.
Sprint packages the Samsung Intrepid with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a SIM card, a stereo headset, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The Samsung Intrepid brings another world phone to Sprint's lineup, which is always nice to see. As a dual-mode phone, the handset supports both CDMA and GSM technology, so domestically, Intrepid will use Sprint's CDMA network as usual, but will then automatically detect and switch to the international GSM bands when traveling overseas where you can make calls and receive data. The smartphone also supports the international 2,100MHz UMTS band so you'll be able to get 3G data connections overseas.
While Sprint ships the Intrepid with a SIM card, you're not locked down to using it and you can swap it out for an international prepaid SIM card if you so choose. Sprint offers voice coverage in 185 countries and data coverage in 150 countries, but as we always say check the international roaming rates before you leave so you're not shocked when you receive your monthly bill.
Wireless options run the full gamut, including EV-DO Rev. A, Wi-Fi, and GPS. Bluetooth is also onboard with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, audiovisual remote control, personal area networking, and more. Other phone features include a speakerphone, voice dialing, speed dial, conference calling, and text and multimedia messages. The phone book is only limited by the available memory with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home address, job title, and more. All your contacts, as well as pictures, text messages, appointments, and so forth, can be backed up to the new Microsoft My Phone service, so in case your phone gets lost or stolen, you'll still have the information saved to Microsoft's online server.
Windows Mobile 6.5 didn't bring any immediate changes to e-mail and messaging. The Intrepid continues to offer support for Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. Once Exchange 2010 arrives, Windows Mobile 6.5 will support conversation view for e-mails, unified messaging, free/busy calendar lookup, and more. Of course, you can configure the smartphone to get your POP3 and IMAP accounts as well, and Sprint includes instant messaging clients for Windows Live, Yahoo, and AIM.
As part of the Windows Mobile bundle, you also get Internet Explorer Mobile 6 and the Microsoft Office Mobile Suite. The former offers some improvements, such as Flash Lite support and a more user-friendly navigation. While not up to par to the Palm Pre or iPhone's browsers, it's easier to navigate than the BlackBerry browser and the older IE browser on the Snap, and the Interpid's touch screen certainly helps as well.
However, you don't always have to rely on the touch screen or keyboard for Web searches or even other tasks. The Samsung Intrepid ships with Microsoft's Tellme service, which lets you perform certain operations with just the sound of your voice. You can make phone calls, compose text messages, search the Web for businesses, traffic, and more. Tellme did very well with simple tasks like voice dialing and searches; we also dictated several text messages and the service did a decent job transcribing the conversation. We did have to repeat ourselves a couple of times and hold the phone close to our mouth and speak slowly, but still pretty impressive overall--definitely help when you don't have free hands.
Other apps preloaded on the Samsung Intrepid include MSN Weather, MSN Money, Adobe Reader LE, Smart Reader business card scanner, a calculator, a unit converter, Solitaire , as well as some Sprint services, such as Sprint Navigation, NFL Mobile Live, Sprint TV, and Sprint Music Store. New apps, paid and free, are also readily available for download from the Intrepid with the newly launched Windows Marketplace for Mobile.
Aside from Sprint's entertainment services, the Intrepid also has a dedicated YouTube app as well as the stale Windows Media Player, which supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, MIDI music files and MPEG4, WMV, H.263, H.264 videos. The camera gets a nice upgrade from the Samsung Ace's 1.3-megapixel sensor to 3.2 megapixels and offers a healthy set of editing options, such as five shooting modes, ISO settings, white balance controls, and auto focus. Picture quality was good. Images were clear and in focus, and the coloring was decent. The Intrepid offers 512MB ROM/256MB RAM and up to 32GB expandable memory.
We tested the dual-mode (CDMA 850/1900; EV-DO Rev. A; GSM 850/900/1,800/1,900MHz; UMTS 2,100MHz) Samsung Intrepid in San Francisco using Sprint service and call quality was good. The audio was rich and clear with very little background noise; our callers also had similar comments about sound quality on their end. However, they said our voice faded in and out on speakerphone calls and there was a bit of hollowness on our end. We had no problems pairing the device with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
Armed with a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7600 processor, the Intrepid performed without major problems during our testing period. The smartphone was responsive and exhibited minimal sluggishness. YouTube and Sprint TV videos played smoothly with synchronized audio and picture, though the quality could be a little murky. Using Sprint's 3G network, CNET's full Web site loaded on Internet Explorer Mobile in 56 seconds while CNN's and ESPN's mobile Web sites loaded in 4 seconds and 10 seconds, respectively.
The Intrepid was a reliable and accurate navigator. Using Sprint Navigation, the smartphone was able to lock on to our position in less than a minute and provide an efficient route from the Golden Gate Bridge to CNET's downtown offices. We wish route recalculations were just a smidge faster, but they were able to get us back on track.
The Samsung Intrepid features a 1480mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6 hours. The Intrepid impressed us with 9 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge in our battery drain tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Intrepid has a digital SAR rating of 1.07 watts per kilogram and a Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M3 and T3.